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10 arrested during series of Lowell gang raids

Weapons, drugs, $69,500 seized

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Maddie Hanna
Globe Correspondent / July 20, 2008

Police arrested 10 people and seized weapons ranging from a MAC-11 machine pistol to semiautomatic handguns as well as bags of marijuana and $69,500 in cash during a series of gang raids Friday in Lowell.

The raids were the culmination of a 10-month investigation by city, state, and federal officials, who yesterday said the arrests and seizures dealt a significant blow to the Tiny Rascal Gang.

"We're talking a violent criminal enterprise that was very significant in the city of Lowell," police Superintendent Kenneth Lavallee said. "We've made a major move here."

Lavallee said the Tiny Rascal Gang has about 100 local members, most of whom are of Southeast Asian descent. The gang was founded in California, Lavallee said, and has gradually spread east.

The gang's membership has grown in Lowell as the city's Cambodian population has expanded, he said.

Lavallee said the Tiny Rascals have been involved in a cycle of violence that has included five homicides and nearly 20 assaults the past 10 years.

Gang members have also been arrested on drug and firearm possession charges.

Investigators seized more than a dozen firearms in Friday's raids. Mayor Edward C. Caulfield said he was shocked at the extent of the gang's firepower.

He rattled off a list of guns he saw Friday: a sawed-off shotgun, a machine pistol, several other handguns, and a rifle with a bayonet attached.

He also said the gang possessed a number of exotic knives.

"Believe me, I've never seen anything like these things in my life," Caulfield said yesterday.

"It's almost like a James Bond movie."

Among the alleged gang members arrested yesterday, four were charged in federal indictments, police Lieutenant William Busby said.

Shane Carney, 32, was charged with being a felon in possession of ammunition. Eden Hok, 22, was charged with dealing guns without a license. Vila Malakham, 24, was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. Saravy Sok, 19, was charged with possessing an unregistered firearm.

Four people were arrested on state indictments, Busby said.

Savong Moun, 22, was charged with three counts of distributing the drug ecstasy. Eric O'Brien, 23, was charged with three counts of distributing benzylpiperazine and three counts of distributing a counterfeit drug.

Jonathan Sheehan, 27, and Sophandara Sok, 18, were charged with possession of gun ammunition without proper identification, selling a gun and ammunition without a license, and unlawful possession without a license.

Two other men, Ricardo Plaza and Francisco Mejias, were arrested on federal warrants for selling more than 100 grams of heroin, Busby said.

Busby did not release addresses for the suspects yesterday, but said most of them live in Lowell. He also said they would probably face additional charges.

"These are just charges to get them held," he said.

Lowell police, State Police, US Attorney Michael Sullivan's office, the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the FBI contributed to the investigation, officials said.

While Lavallee called the raids and arrests "very, very successful," he warned against overstating their impact.

"I would never say it's a crushing blow, that we've eliminated or decapitated" the gang, he said. "But I think this is going to bode well for our future success."

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